Sharp rise in veterans’ mental health problems

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​Armed forces' personnel seek support more readily, charity says  

1st April 2015 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A charity says it has experienced a steep rise in veterans seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Combat Stress, which runs Holybush House in Ayrshire, said it witnessed a 26% rise in ex-service men and women seeking support for the condition which is caused by exposure to harrowing situations in the field of conflict.  

This increase, more than double the 9% jump in the previous year, is due to the marked rise in armed forces personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking help, said the charity.

It believes those who fought in recent conflicts are coming forward for treatment sooner than has previously been the case, although stigma around mental ill-health remains an issue

Founded in 1919, Combat Stress is currently working with almost 6,000 ex-service personnel from all conflicts since the Second World War.

The good news is that we do have treatments that work - Walter Busuttil

“We are very concerned at the significant rise in those coming forward with military PTSD,” says Dr Walter Busuttil, director of medical services at Combat Stress. 

“It is the biggest increase we have seen in recent years and we expect it to continue, so we want to build up our clinical services accordingly.

“The recent budget announcement of increased funding for NHS veterans’ mental health services is helpful, but as the need for specialist treatment appears to be expanding we will need additional funding and resources.

“The good news is that we do have treatments that work.”

Of the 2,264 Veterans seeking support for mental ill-health and PTSD from Combat Stress over the last year, 295 Veterans are based in Scotland, taking the number of Veterans currently receiving help in Scotland to 770.

Research shows that the specialist PTSD residential programme at Combat Stress is an effective treatment for veterans with psychological injuries.

Results of the two-year study show that veterans who completed the six-week Intensive Treatment Programme programme had “significant improvements” in their PTSD and other mental health symptoms. 

Dr Dominic Murphy of Combat Stress said: “This shows we can effectively reduce their PTSD symptoms – such as flashbacks – and also reduce depression, anxiety and anger problems.”